When I walked down to the beach all suited up this morning, I was sweating my bum off. Too hot for a full steamer (i.e. the wetsuit with full length arms and full length legs). Jumping into the water looking forward to being refreshed, I got an ice-cream headache as the NE swell has brought f…ing freezing water. Maybe steamer was a good idea after all.
Once I got used to the water and sitting there waiting for a wave between the sets I was boiling hot again. You also see the occasional brave surfer (or stupid depending on how you wanna see it) just in boardies already. I reckon it’s definitely not boardie time and they are just simply showing off what tough cookies there are or how their abs survived another winter. However, they’ve got a point, it seems like the steamer’s days are counted for this season and it’s time to look for alternative surf wear. Question what’s suited for the common gidget given it’s still too cold for bikini only. Plus, bikini only is not always practical anyway, given any duck-dive over 2 foot and chances are that you’ll be surfing au naturelle….
Anyway, here is the lowdown on spring/summer surf gear:
Spring suit (long legs, short arms)
Best for this time of the year would be a springsuit with long legs and short arms and 2 mill all over (as opposed to 2/3 like most steamers). Bad news, the girl version of this piece of clothing is yet to be found. Every year, I ask in surf-shops and I’ve never found it. Thus, I’ve actually never tried it but you see heaps of blokes around in that outfit around this time so I reckon it must be a winner. I shall investigate again and let you know if you can find it anywhere around here.
Spring suit (short legs, short arms)
I used to wear a spring suit for a couple of seasons with short legs (kind of short – they just finish above your knees). They are pretty good. Springies keep you warm but you are not as boiling as in a steamer. They are not as advanced as steamers and sometimes the seams give you a rash and you still need to get suited up before you go surfing. I’m also not a big of fan of the tan line you get on your legs from wearing a springy. It is not necessarily compatible with the shorts and skirts you would wear outside of the water on a summer’s day. Plus, let’s face it, they just don’t look very flattering…on no one…
I love wetsuit tops. They come in 2 mill or 1 mill thickness. You can get a short arm option (or no arm) but I prefer the long arm one just because of extra sun-protection. They keep your upper body warm but you don’t have to wear a wetsuit. The only problem if you wear them with boardies you get water in unlike in a suit. Any bad wipeouts, and you might surface with the top on your head as they roll up. Usually they have a little sling you can attach to your boardies (caution: might cause wedgies). The other thing that sucks about wetsuit tops is getting out of them. The one I wear is a serious choking hazard when you try to take it off as you might get stuck in the process. Well, maybe it’s me, not the top and my head is simply too big. On that note it’s important that it fits tightly. Rather get a size too small than too big. They tend to stretch (other than around the head).
Even though I love wetsuit tops, I have to admit they are more suited to the days coming out of summer when the water is still warm and the air temperatures drop rather than the other way round (hot air and cold water like it is now).
They are the thinner versions of the wetsuit tops as in lycra shirts. Great for summer, great for Bali. I never ever go out without a rash shirt or wetsuit top on a hot summer’s day. Better than any sunscreen. Cover up. Also, it gives you protection from the wax on your board. I’ve had some not so pretty rashes before on my belly (that’s why it’s called rashie, get it?).
I only ever wear a thin rashie if it’s really hot because you get quite cold quickly. Even if there is only a little breeze it’s freezing. So mostly I prefer my 1 mill wetsuit top because it protects you a bit from the wind and does not give you the shivers while you are waiting for a set to come through in the summer slop with a slight seabreeze. I swear you are less cold if you were nothing cos skin dries quicker than the rashie.
If you wear a wetsuit top you need pants to go with it. Don’t recommend bikini bottoms for the reasons explained above. In certain conditions they are just not safe and trust me it’s not a nice feeling paddling out/duck diving with one arm so you can hold onto your bottoms with the other.
There are board shorts for girls: The hot version which are usually quite short and the knee length granny version. If you are a ranga like me, knee length granny version is highly recommended to avoid that pesky sunburn on the back of your knees.
Make sure when you buy them to check out for buttons or anything that could be in the way when you are lying down on your board unless you don’t mind button print on your belly that lasts for days. Also, check for any seams that might cause rash on your inner thighs (lucky we don’t have balls, I’ve heard of some nasty ball rashes due to ill-fitting boardies from my male surf buddies).
Hot tip: if you ever go to Bali, stock up on boardshorts there. I find they are more comfy than the ones the sell here and they are dirt cheap compared to the likes of Roxy & co boardshorts for $70 a pair.
I bought a pair of wetsuit pants last year and I love them. Yes, they are very, very tight but they keep your bottoms warm in chilly water. And the best of all, because they are so tight, there is no way in hell you’ll ever lose them in big surf. If you tuck in your wetsuit top, it’s as good as a spring suit but it gives you a much better tan-line. Not so great when it comes to sun-protection which is zero because they are tinny tiny. They are really oversized bikini buttoms made out of rubber. Also, not recommended if you are conscious about the size of your bum. They are not necessarily flattering unless you are tinny tiny too or you don’t give a shit.
Generally, I don’t recommend surfing in a bikini for 3 main reasons:
- Easy to lose in the surf
- Guaranteed sunburn on your back (maybe not at dusk and dawn)
- Rash on your belly
Sometimes it is very nice though just to jump into without having to suit up.
If you get a bikini you wanna surf in, don’t buy anything with buttons or underwired ones, basically anything that sticks out or is hard… it’s not comfy if you lie down on your board trying to paddle with a button between your chest and board. Ouchy. Buy your surf bikini one size too small so you have a small chance of covering what it’s meant to cover even in big surf. I would also rather opt for the models you need to tie in the back than a clip clasp. You won’t believe how easy they break if you put any strain on them. Also, make sure if you get a triangle top that it is firmly attached to the string and does not move along the string if you don’t want to flash your boobies at one stage during your session.
I’ve had whole surfsessions being spoilt by making sure I have not lost any of my bikini bits and constantly readjusting the fit. It’s really annoying and distracting. I don’t know how some girls to it. I prefer to just be comfy with a wetsuit top and pants where I can be sure not to flash anyone. One thing I’ve seen in Bali is a girl wearing 2 bikinis on top of each other. I guess it’s good to have a safety net…
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, actual conditions and budget. If you want to be on the safe side, get a boardies and a wetsuit top and you’ll be covered for most conditions.